Salted Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecake

Rich, creamy pumpkin filling covered in salted caramel, this Salted Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecake is my favorite Thanksgiving dessert -- I make it every year!! Both the cheesecake and the caramel are make-ahead -- this is the ultimate holiday dessert!
Salted Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecake

I was hesitant to put this pumpkin cheesecake recipe up after Thanksgiving. Then I saw that Martha Stewart had pumpkin pie in her top ten list of Christmas desserts…so it suddenly felt relevant. Suddenly.

This pumpkin cheesecake is one of those recipes that you can make a few days ahead, the whole thing, and not give it another thought until dessert time. Boom. There’s another reason this made it up here… Y’all been too kind and askin’ for the recipe! I had to oblige. Had to. You like how I’m pulling out my southern hospitality? I get to do that even though it’s been generations since we set foot down there. It’s like a recessive gene I have. That’s right, along with the OCD thing. My relatives were down there churning out moonshine and doing lord knows what else. It’s only natural I’ve become who I am. My grandfather would tell us stories about the two uncles that lived down by the river, in a cave no less, making bootleg booze. I’m not making this stuff up. Was my grandfather? I have no idea. But I love the idea. If we meet someday, it will explain LOTS.

The inspiration for this pumpkin cheesecake comes from a Food & Wine recipe, mid-2000s. We were in Beijing and, if I’m not mistaken, my mom sent me this particular issue in the mail. It wasn’t especially easy to get US mags in the PRC. And if you could find them they were outdated and expensive. If there are people with nut allergies, I omit the pecans in the crust. In fact, I’ve always made it without the pecans as my family has a strain of nut paranoia running rampant. I edited the instructions…the salted-caramel thing is all me. I also changed the spices a bit…you know me and five-spice. I hit it hard this time of year. Come January you won’t hear a peep about five-spice powder from me until next holiday season. Promise.

I would link to the original recipe for you to compare, but I seriously can’t find it online and my pulled-out magazine page has no date. (UPDATE: Original recipe is here!) When I sat down to write this I thought to myself that I literally had nothing to say. See how that went? Next time I say I have nothing to say, mix yourself a cocktail and put your feet up. We’ll be here awhile. I highly recommend a hot toddy and some holiday music while you make this. I’m cranking out the Burl Ives right now. LOVE. Perhaps a little nip of moonshine? Nobody’ll know.

UPDATE: I have some great cheesecake-making tips here, check them out if you’re new to the cheesecake world. Real quickly, make sure you beat everything on low, give the cheesecake a water bath and let it cool in the oven after baking, with the oven turned off and the door cracked. I’ve added these tips below! Rebecca xo

Salted Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecake

Salted Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecake

Rich, creamy pumpkin filling covered in salted caramel, this Salted Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecake is my favorite Thanksgiving dessert — I make it every year!! Both the cheesecake and the caramel are make-ahead — this is the ultimate holiday dessert!
4.67 from 3 reviews
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Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Cheesecake
Servings: 8 Servings

Ingredients

For the Pumpkin Cheesecake

  • 1 15- ounce can of pureed pumpkin (1 3/4 cups)
  • 8 whole graham crackers use 10 if you omit the pecans
  • 1/2 cup pecans totally optional
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar packed
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
  • 14 ounces cream cheese room temperature
  • 1 ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons five-spice powder
  • 5 large eggs room temperature
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed Satsuma you could sub with a tangerine or orange…I’m just obsessed with Satsuma’s this time of year
  • 2 teaspoons real vanilla extract

For the Salted Caramel

  • 1 ½ sticks 6 oz unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup brown sugar packed
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tablespoon sea salt flakes for the top of the cheesecake

Instructions

  • This cheesecake is best made ahead and I personally like to do it over several days. I might make the crust + salted caramel one day and then fill it with the cheesecake filling the next day and then serve on the third day after an overnight chill. This all makes it especially perfect for Thanksgiving (or any holiday/event where you’ll have lots more to cook). I recently made it with toasted meringue over the salted caramel — try it!
  • Spread the pumpkin puree on a couple of layers of paper towels to dry out a bit. It’s suggested about 2 hours…I’ve left it up to 15 hours and it was fine.
  • Preheat your oven to 350 F. Butter a 9-inch nonstick springform pan. I like to butter even though it’s nonstick…I hate sticking.

For the Crust

  • Put the graham crackers, pecans (if using) and brown sugar in a food processor and pulse until the mixture becomes a fine crumb. Drizzle the butter on top and pulse until just mixed and it resembles wet sand. Press the mixture into the bottom of the springform. Place the crust in the oven for 10 minutes or until it starts to turn a little golden. Don’t walk away and do something else here. It can happen fast and you don’t want it to burn. Set the crust aside to cool completely.
    Boil some water for your water bath. Increase your oven temperature to 400 F.

For the Cheesecake

  • Put the cream cheese and granulated sugar in an electric-stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on low until smooth. A couple of notes here… First, if you don’t have an electric-stand mixer you can use your beautiful arms and a spatula to beat it into submission. That’s how I did it when I was hanging in the PRC. Second, you don’t want to add too much air, at any point, into this creamy mixture we’re creating right now. Too much air can make unsightly cracks on your cheesecake. Thus keep it to a low-speed beating as much as possible. I don’t want you to panic about this now, because we have the awesome salted caramel to mask any of the above-mentioned fissures. But still, the goal is no cracks. Once the cream cheese is smooth, add the salt and the five-spice powder with the machine is on low. Use the back of a spatula to smash out any lumps.
  • Scrape the pumpkin off of the paper towels and into the cream cheese. Mix until completely combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure they are completely incorporated before you add the next. Keep your machine on low here and continue to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Lastly, throw in the cream, Satsuma juice and the vanilla. Mix until everything is co-mingled and smooth. Pour the mixture onto the cooled crust.
  • Wrap your springform pan, with the crust in it, in two layers of foil and set in a large roasting pan. Pour the pumpkin cheesecake filling in the springform pan. Put the roasting pan, with the pumpkin cheesecake in it, in the center of the oven. Pour the boiling water in the pan being careful not to get any water in the springform pan. Fill to about 1 cm up the side of the cheesecake pan.
    Bake for 15 minutes and then turn the temperature to 250 F and bake for 1 hour more.
    Check between 60-70 minutes.* The center will wiggle, but should not be liquid. Cook a little longer if it looks too jiggly. When done, turn the oven off and let it sit in the oven for 30 minutes, with the door open. Cool for a couple of hours at room temperature. When cool to the touch, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.

For the Salted Caramel

  • To make the salted caramel, place the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium-heat and whisk away until the both are melted. Pour in the heavy cream, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and vanilla (save the coarse salt for serving time). Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 5-ish minutes. Continue to whisk and stir as it cooks. You want the caramel to thicken a bit, and it will also thicken as it cools. Set aside to cool and refrigerate until ready to use.
  • At dessert time, take the side of the springform pan off…you may need a knife to gently run along the side. If so, do this near the sink so that you can run the knife under hot water periodically so that the cheesecake doesn’t stick.
  • Place the caramel in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave until just warmed a bit through. You don’t want it too hot and runny. I did it for about 15 seconds in my microwave. Let it cool just a hair (5 minutes). Pour the caramel on top of the pumpkin cheesecake. It should form a pond in the center, leaving about 2 centimeters around the edges. Voile. If you had any cracks, they are now mysteriously gone. No one will ever know. Sprinkle the 1/2 tablespoon of sea salt flakes over the top. Done. Pour yourself a mason jar of cognac to go with your slice. You done good.
Thanks for baking with me! Please tag me on social @displacedhousewife #displacedhousewife so I can see your beautiful treats! xo

*I’ve adjusted the cooking time…it needed longer than the time that was previously listed.

{ on my mind }

18 Comments

  • Erica November 27, 2020 at 5:04 AM

    4 stars
    Made this for Thanksgiving, and the flavor was PERFECT, but the consistency of the filling was more like pudding than cheesecake. I followed the directions exactly. Baked for 70mins during the 250° phase. Any clue what might have gone wrong? Thanks!! The crust was wonderful!

    Reply
    • Rebecca Firth November 27, 2020 at 6:02 PM

      Hi Erica! I’m so happy you loved the flavor!! The cheesecake is soft, but it should hold shape, was it able to do that? If not, I wonder what size pan you used? If it was 9-inch, then I would look into the pumpkin you used (what brand?) and confirm that you used large eggs? Also, did the pumpkin have lots of moisture in it—that could make it more difficult for the cheesecake to set. Let me know and we can troubleshoot this for you! Happy holidays to you—thank you for including this dessert on your table!!! xox

      Reply
      • Erica November 28, 2020 at 2:07 AM

        Thanks so much for your reply!

        9in pan, Libby’s brand pumpkin and large eggs. It mostly held its shape; the weight of the caramel sauce made the pointy end of each slice sorta collapse. I let the pumpkin sit on paper towels for about 4hrs and the the towels were completely saturated, corner to corner. Maybe I could have transferred it to clean paper towels and left it a bit longer.

        I’ll def try again. And the crust is a keeper for sure! :)

        Reply
        • Rebecca Firth November 28, 2020 at 2:21 AM

          Of course!! You did everything right!! Libby’s is THE BEST!!!

          I’m going to freshen up this post for next holiday season and I will do some troubleshooting for us. So so happy you liked it!! xox

          Reply
  • Mariangela November 24, 2020 at 11:50 PM

    Hi, I don’t see an oven temperature specific to the cheesecake filling. Is it 350 for the crust and the cheesecake as well?

    Reply
    • Rebecca Firth November 25, 2020 at 12:18 AM

      Hi Mariangela!
      Thank you so much for reaching out with this question. I just transferred to a new recipe card/format and it looks like that was cut off in the process. I just added it back into the recipe. Thank you for the note, I really appreciate it. Please reach out with any more questions!! xoxo

      Reply
      • Mariangela November 25, 2020 at 2:15 AM

        Oh no!!! Thank you for getting back to me so soon but I was in a time crunch and cooked it for an hour at 350. It’s very jiggly in the middle bit cooked on top. It also cracked a bit around the top edges. Do you think it can be salvaged?

        Reply
        • Rebecca Firth November 25, 2020 at 2:18 AM

          Of course, no problem!!! If it’s cooked around the edges and has some jiggle in the middle it sounds perfect. I wouldn’t worry about the crack. One of my favorite parts of this cheesecake is that you can pour the caramel over the top and it makes everything fabulous!! Let me know how it goes!!! xoxo

          Reply
          • Mariangela November 25, 2020 at 2:20 AM

            Ok whew! Need this for thanksgiving and don’t want to go to the store again haha.
            Thanks so much for your responsiveness! I’m a huge fan and anytime I bake, it’s only your recipes!

        • Rebecca Firth November 25, 2020 at 3:09 AM

          Thank you so much for your sweet words — that means the world to me!! I hope you enjoy every last bite. Happy Thanksgiving Mariangela — sending love to you and your family!! xoxo

          Reply
          • Mariangela November 27, 2020 at 5:48 PM

            5 stars
            Update: shared with my family on thanksgiving and it was the star of the night. It was unanimously agreed that this was the most perfect cheesecake ever! Thanks for sharing your wonderful recipes and being so responsive in a pinch!

          • Rebecca Firth November 27, 2020 at 6:03 PM

            I am SO HAPPY to hear that—literally makes my day! I hope you all had the best holiday Mariangela!!! xox

  • Christi November 21, 2020 at 5:17 PM

    Hi this looks so amazing and I am going to attempt it but I accidentally bought half and half. I have 8oz of heavy cream and 16 oz of half and half. Do you think the caramel would still work with half and half subbed for cream?

    Reply
    • Rebecca Firth November 21, 2020 at 5:20 PM

      Hi Christi!
      I haven’t made it with half and half, but I honestly think it will work fine!! Let me know how it goes — so excited you’re making it!! xoxo

      Reply
  • 2pots2cook November 28, 2017 at 6:34 AM

    Sweet Heavens ! So glad to find this cake ! It is not the occasion that matters, it’s the mood :-) So, I’m in the mood to bake. Thank you so much !

    Reply
  • Elena October 13, 2017 at 10:14 AM

    He descubierto tu blog me encanta ,me gusta todo tengo que usar el traductor pues soy de España.Tus fotos tu forma de hablar llegas a los sentimientos bravo .saludos desde Mi tierra Coruña en España.
    Elena
    de :
    misrubiasuyo blog.wordpress.com

    Reply
  • DisplacedHousewife December 9, 2015 at 8:53 PM

    Hi Lauren, I don’t. When I created this recipe I didn’t use a water bath. You’ll see just above the recipe I link to another cheesecake recipe of mine with tips and it does suggest a water bath. I need to go back and incorporate the water bath (or note it) into this recipe because I really do believe that it helps to keep cracks at bay. I hope you make it — it’s one of our favorite holiday recipes!! xo

    Reply
  • Lauren December 9, 2015 at 8:03 PM

    Hi! You don’t mentioned a water bath here / yes? No? Thxo

    Reply

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